18.07.2011 33 °C
Sun 17th July
Old Rome, a tourist's cyclone!
A late start to the day after the previous night's excitement and late return. Enjoyed our first stay in breakfast having bought brekky food as well, downside is there is no coffee in the room (tea, yes) and the coffee machine downstairs was out of order.
The indications were ominous when the metro train into town was standing room only, were they all off to late Sun church, probably not. Their and our destinations were the same, the old part of Rome. As we got closer to the Colosseum, the crowds got thicker until we rounded the last corner sort of above the Colosseum and were amazed at both the building itself and the crowds gathered around it. Originally designed to hold about 80,000 people, well today there were about that many waiting to get in. We found out later that the usual opening time of 9am had been delayed till noon, so even those who got there early had no advantage.
Walking on we went past the Roman ruins, the Emmanuelle Monument, the Trevi Fountain and various statues, fountains and obelisks that we weren't sure about. Some of the main roads were closed off to traffic, except for the police who are just cruising up and down, checking out the girls, trying to look cool and the taxis who push in anywhere.
Ended up on Del Corso, one of the main shopping streets and it was jammed packed with people on foot, on vespas, on cycles, on segways and some not moving at all except to shove another ice-cream into themselves.
We had a stand up lunch in a cafeteria which was OK except the process is you check out what you want to eat on 1 side then go to the other side and order and pay, you are given a ticket and then you return to the 1st side to then get your food. Like the coffee bars, this one you eat standing at an internal small table.
Somewhat refreshed we kept walking until we reached Piazza de Popolo, a large square surrounded by statues and a giant Egyptian obelisk in the middle, no shade to be found here, only street sellers and beggars. It is amazing how many people are selling fake handbags, belts, sunglasses, toys, hats, water - they just unpack their big sack anywhere tourists are, but seem to be doing a fair trade none the less.
Ventured up a vast number of stairs to find cool relief in the Borghese Gardens, overlooking the old town, not nearly so busy here, just a few buskers plying their trade.
Pretty much over the tourist cyclone - get sucked into the swirling mass and just hoping to emerge unscathed, we jumped on our now familiar No 495 bus and took it all the way to our cosy apartment in the bush where we quickly settled back with some cool ones and discussed the days events.
Quickly learnt today that:
- Pedestrian crossings are that in name only, they are a like guides for the drivers to aim at anyone game enough to venture into their territory;
- Public toilets are non existent and only a few cafes have them or let you use them even if you are eating there. The signs for Public toilets I think are designed to lead you to another tourist place, I doubt if they ever do lead you to a toilet.
- As is the case anywhere, a lost tourist will always manage to ask another tourist where to go. We were asked by 2 couples within a few minutes of how to get to certain places, just luckily we had just come from one and were going to the second. After last nights efforts, surprising we had any idea.
- Sunday, guess who is closed on this day, yes the Vatican, the whole place is closed to the public.
- The main shopping streets are just small boutique stores selling clothing, footwear, souvenirs, no sign of traditional Italian food or goods.
- On many street corners there are covered or open stalls ( quite legitimate ) that sell a range of cheap goods, clothing, shoes, pictures, however most just sell exactly the same things, nothing cultural here.
- Old Rome is certainly unique and upon reflection is a terrific experience and the crowds do not really diminish the magnitude and craftsmanship in the creation of the monuments and what they were meant to portray.